Chromebook vs. Tablet for School: What Is the Best Option?

Chromebooks and tablets have become increasingly popular with educators and learners as the primary go-to devices for accessing a vast array of applications and digital content. However, the choice between Chromebook vs. tablet is not straightforward. On the surface, these devices seem different.

For example, while most people view Chromebooks as cost-effective alternatives to laptop replacements, tablets are largely considered content-consumption devices. Moreover, each of these devices is best suited for certain use cases that may require specific features. Some of these aspects include portability, storage, keyboard and accessories, screen resolution and application compatibility.

You can end up with one of each device for different functions, situations or needs. Learn more about Chromebooks and tablets for school and find out how Parallels® Desktop for Chrome OS can enhance the usability of Chromebooks in this article.

Chromebooks for School

Chromebooks have become mainstream computing devices in the education sector, posting nearly 275% growth in sales and achieving a remarkable first-quarter shipment volume in 2021. A lot goes with this popularity, particularly with emerging remote-learning requirements, built-in accessories, enhanced durability and providing a more traditional laptop experience.

Chromebooks can be specifically designed for educational use

Chromebooks are conceived to work seamlessly with the Google Classroom application and its entire ecosystem. This simplifies how students and teachers manage assignments wherever they are. Most importantly, the Chrome OS is designed with security practices, such as sandboxing and verified boot, that protect applications and data from malware—without any student interaction.

Chromebooks have built-in accessories

Chromebooks have inbuilt accessories such as trackpads and keyboards. These accessories make it easier for learners to type and surf the web. Google designed the inbuilt accessories in Chromebooks with usability and convenience in mind. Besides providing multiple dedicated keys and useful gestures within the trackpad, students can also use keyboard shortcuts to enhance the overall experience.

Chromebooks are durable

Any device used in a classroom must withstand the use and abuse by students, as well as being moved around in overstuffed backpacks next to juice boxes and water bottles. While reinforced hinges and ports are the norms on most Chromebooks, so are water-resistant keyboards. And like business notebooks that are designed to survive falls and minor disasters, most Chromebooks also withstand drops, scrapes and other small accidents.

Chromebooks provide a more traditional laptop experience

Simple operations such as swipe, drag or drop are not problematic when using fingers on a tablet. However, tasks that require greater accuracy, such as selecting text or small cells in a spreadsheet, become much more complicated when using touchscreens.

Because most tablets are pure touch devices, they cannot provide the same experience as those of traditional desktops. Chromebooks, on the other hand, have touchpads and allow students to use removable mice for pointing operations. This enables them to achieve the same experiences as those provided by traditional PCs.

Tablets for School

Tablets are a great balance between traditional laptops and smartphones because they can offer the processing capabilities of a laptop and the portability of mobile devices. That is why they are being used in schools more frequently. Below are four features that make tablets a good choice for schools.

Tablets are more portable

Chromebooks are essentially laptops when it comes to size and shape. For example, a typical Chromebook is 0.75 inches thick, weighs around three pounds, and has dimensions between 11 inches to 12 inches wide and 7.5 inches to 8.0 inches deep. In contrast, tablets are much thinner and lighter, with most of them being half as thick as average Chromebooks.

Tablets have higher resolution displays

Chromebooks provide inferior resolution when compared to tablets, even though they are larger. Typically, Chromebooks comprise an 11-inch or larger display with a standard resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. Although Google Pixel Go is an exception, it costs nearly four times the price of an average Chromebook.

In contrast, the resolution of a tablet depends largely on its brand. For example, a 10-inch Surface Go has a resolution of 1800 by 1200 pixels, while an iPad Air has a resolution of 2224 by 1668 pixels. Also, tablets tend to utilize in-plane switching (IPS) panels, which provide superior viewing angles and color when compared to typical low-end Chromebooks used in schools.

Tablets have a longer battery life

Both Chromebooks and tablets are optimized to provide enough performance and deal with basic computational tasks using only battery power. Long battery-life means students can use either of these two devices for an entire school day.

Although Chromebooks are larger than tablets, the best Chromebooks can last about eight hours while playing video. Likewise, most tablets can run for eight hours with the same video playback test. However, some tablets, such as the Lenovo Yoga 10, can last even longer (up to 12 hours).

Tablets are more compatible with educational applications

Chromebooks rely exclusively on Chrome OS—a stripped-down, minimalist operating system that Google designed to integrate with the Chrome browser and Google Drive. Students can either use the Chrome OS extensions, Progressive Web Applications (PWA) or Google Play Store to install Android applications.

Unfortunately, most Chromebooks are limited when it comes to Android applications because only Chrome OS devices launched after 2019 have features that support the Google Play Store. This means Chromebooks launched earlier than 2019 have limited education-based applications.

With tablets, users have the flexibility to leverage the Google Play Store for Android devices, App Store for iPads, and Microsoft Store for Windows-based tablets to access more education-based applications.

Individual Needs of Students

When it comes to choosing between a Chromebook versus a tablet for school, there is no clear winner. It depends largely on the individual needs of the school or student. For example, a Chromebook makes sense for a student looking for a device to use for accessing the web or word processing. For such use cases, storage is not an issue because students can always leverage Google Drive to store their files.

A Chromebook is also a perfect choice for middle-grade students who want to get started with typing on a keyboard, enabling them to learn new skills. While some tablets, such as iPads, have optional keyboards, they can drive up the cost of the device.

On the other hand, tablets are better suited for students in creative fields. While tablets lack some of the key functionalities that standard desktops provide, they have some major advantages when compared to Chromebooks. They have higher resolution displays that can provide better quality images than Chromebooks. And unlike Chromebooks that have limited applications, artists can access many programs when using Android, iOS or Windows-based tablets.

Tablets may also make a perfect choice for learners that require specialized applications in high schools, colleges or universities. For example, courses such as computer science might demand students to access virtual machines (VMs) and use Microsoft Access, SQL Server, or Visual Studio.

Architecture students may need computer-aided design (CAD) applications such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks, while data science learners may want to use MATLAB. A Windows-based tablet makes sense in these instances because such students can easily install and use these applications.

Increase Chromebook Usability for School with Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS

One of the biggest hurdles students encounter with Chromebooks is that they cannot run full-featured Windows applications. While students could use web-based and Android versions of Windows-based applications on Chromebooks, they do not provide native features that can enhance productivity.

Because of this limitation, students and teachers who switch from Windows-based PCs to Chromebooks often miss their favorite productivity applications, games and creator tools. Educational institutions can now use Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS to turn Chromebooks into real PCs.

Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS is a full-featured Windows OS container that teachers and students can use to run a full version of Windows OS on Chromebooks. School IT administrators can use Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS to install the virtual environment. Once created, students and teachers can access full-featured Windows applications, including legacy software, on Chromebooks—whether online or offline.

While devices that support Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS may cost more, such endpoints are straightforward to use and last longer than average Chromebooks available on the market. This means that high-school or college students can always pass their devices to elementary and middle school learners if the hardware specifications begin to struggle with demands in the future. Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS has many features for learners and educators. For example, they can:

Try Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS today, and experience how it enhances Chromebook usability!